As I was getting ready for bed last night, my phone rang. It was my son.
He had called earlier in the evening to express his frustrations that the car we had loaned him was costing too much money. I figured that he was calling to apologize for ending that call so abruptly.
He was even more ticked off than when he hung up!
Our 1990 Nissan Maxima had died on the way home from school. This was not one of the problems that were bothering him on the previous call. This was a new one.
Fortunately, he was only about 200 yards from his apartment.
As he described what happened, it sounded like a problem with the charging system. I commiserated with him and tried to encourage him by telling him that we could call AAA in the morning and tow the car to his mechanic.
When he started asking me details about how that would work, my brain started filling with fog…
“Dude, it is now long past my bedtime…
“I was already tired before you called…
“Your mother usually deals with AAA.…
I told him that I would get back to him in the morning.
It just so happened that my wife was visiting her parents in CA. I thanked God for the two hour time difference, called her, brought her up to speed and asked if she could help. She agreed to call AAA and make the necessary arrangements.
When I awoke in the morning, I saw a text saying that everything was taken care of with AAA. She had added him to our account so that he could call for a tow and had already communicated everything to Big A.
Ahhhh…while I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, I did manage to marry very well!
Everything was taken care of. What could possibly go wrong? People call AAA every day…We’ve called several times and each time things have been as smooth as pie.
At 11:15, I happened to glance at my phone and noticed that I had two missed calls. Big A had called me at 8:40 and 8:43. I had been in a meeting and had left my phone at my desk.
I called to see if everything had gone smoothly.
“Yeah. I called AAA and waited about 20 minutes. When the tow truck came, the driver said ‘I can tow it to your mechanic which is 13 miles away or do you want to take it to my mechanic which is just a few miles down the road?’ ”
“Oh, so you were calling for my advice.”
“Yes. I called you and then I called Mom.”
Mom wasn’t able to answer because she was in the middle of a call with our health insurance company.
“So what did you decide?”
“I told him that he could tow it to his mechanic since it is closer.”
“Did the mechanic say what he thought the problem was with the car?”
“He said it sounded like the alternator.”
“And did he say how much it will cost?”
“He said around $500.”
“WHAT? $500 TO FIX AN ALTERNATOR?”
“What’s the name of the mechanic shop?”
A quick search on Google Maps didn’t really tell me much. But when I clicked on the little man to get the ‘Street View’, the picture became a little bit clearer.
The sign in front of the tow truck driver’s “mechanic” said it was a body shop!
“What’s the name of the company that towed it?”
I am sure that it is just a coincidence…but the towing company has the same address as the mechanic!
Hmmm….let me see if I can figure this out…
The driver tows the car to the mechanic who then charges higher rates to cover the kickback that he pays the driver for bringing him the business!
I told Big A to get over there as quickly as he could and tell them not to do ANY work on the car.
I then called my local AAA in Kansas City. A young woman listened while I explained the whole situation and then said, “We have a policy of one tow per incident.”
“I realize that. I am asking if you would make an exception?”
To my surprise, she put me on hold.
After a long five minutes, she came back on the line and said, “Because of the extenuating circumstances and the fact that the car was not towed to the originally requested location, they decided that we will make an exception!”
I was hopeful while I was waiting on hold but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.
She then transferred me to the Philadelphia branch…
I then had to tell the entire story again.
As I finished, the young man said, “We have a tow truck on the way.”
“May I ask what company?”
THEY WERE SENDING THE SAME ONE!
The operator didn’t see the problem.
“If I am right, and the towing company is in bed with the mechanic, it could get a little ugly !”
He finally saw the light…
“OK. I need to go talk to dispatch so I am going to have to put you on hold.”
As soon as he put me on hold, my phone rang.
I didn’t recognize it but the (215) area code meant that it was from the Philadelphia area…
IT WAS THE ORIGINAL TOW TRUCK DRIVER!
And he was not calling to see how my day was going!
He growled, “You know this is a cash call…”
“I know that is the normal policy but AAA said that they are making an exception and are authorizing a second tow.”
“They are not! There is only one free tow per incident so this is going to be a cash call and it is thirteen miles to his mechanic.”
Allow me to translate: “Hey, *#&&-%+**, I am going to charge you so much money that you will wish you left it where it is!”
I figured that telling him what was really on my mind would not be helpful so I calmly replied, “That’s fine…I am on the phone with AAA and they are finding a different company to tow the car so you don’t have to worry about it.”
Conversation over! He hung up on me…without saying “Good-bye” I might add.
15-20 seconds later, I received a text from Big A saying that the car had to be off of the property by 4:00 or he would have to pay a $50 daily storage charge. It was 3:10 in Philly.
So their little mousetrap has an additional feature.…
The mechanic decides to fix the car right away. Maybe he calls to inform you or maybe you are supposed to call. It doesn’t matter to him because he is going to charge you $50/day for “storing” your car. What if you don’t have the money to pay for the repairs?
“Don’t worry about it…We’ll keep the car here until you can pay for the repairs.”
You get your paycheck an the end of the week and head down after work to go pay the $500 for the repairs. Ooops…they forgot to tell you…they close at 4:00! So, the next day, you leave work early and hear, “OK, that’ll be $500 for the repairs and $250 for storage.”
And, that my friend is how the game is played.
The AAA operator came back on. They had another towing company.
I quickly Googled it…
This company was right around the corner from “the mechanic”! A little doubt started to creep in…
“They will be there in 20-25 minutes.”
I looked an my watch…3:15! Man this is going to be close!
Fifteen minutes later, Big A called to tell me that the guy had arrived, picked up the car and they were on their way to his mechanic.
I then went into the nearest phone booth, slipped back into my ‘Clark Kent’ attire, went back to my desk and with adrenaline coursing through my arms, tried to act like nothing had happened.